This shit still sounds hot today...
The last thing I loved about [a][/a] was their music. On the contrary, I gave their UK debut at the old Marquee a right slagging back in June ”87; said they were silly, dumb throwbacks.
As a consequence, I received a phonecall from the singer, Axl Rose. He said the band were on the way to the airport in a cab and he wondered if I’d be in the office so they could swing right by and FUCKING SORT ME OUT!! Needless to say, I had a pressing engagement elsewhere but I had to admire their balls.
And so it was that, four years later, I found myself crammed into a room the size of a garden shed backstage somewhere in the US of A with all five members of [a][/a], listening to [a][/a]’s ‘Back In Black’ just as loud as the human ear will allow.
This was the Gunners’ pre-show ritual – to ingest the brutal majesty of the greatest rock album of modern times, then go out and top it. The band were in such disarray at this point that the ritual and the show were the only times the five individuals ever met together. They were rock’s greatest soap opera and there were so many reasons to adore them that it’s hard to know where to start.
There was Axl who was so insane he travelled with his own shrink and was forever getting arrested for inciting audience riots. He had a voice like gravel, a snake-hipped dance that became the signature image for the fledgling MTV and he wore bandanas and cycling shorts!
There was Slash,in the top hat, his face forever hidden behind a curly curtain of hair. Slash kept snakes for pets, was a junkie and had to carry notes around in his pockets so that, if you found him OD’d, you’d know who to call. He played guitar like Picasso – straight lines, no fucking about.
Then there was Izzy, the intelligent one. Was a junkie. Quit. Travelled to shows in a camper van with his dog and his bicycle like some gypsy prince. And Duff, the peroxide bassist. A total babe magnet, just pure fucked up the whole time. But not as fucked up as Steven, the drummer, who was so fucked up they sacked him. Amazingly, this chaotic rabble had become the biggest band in the world. Then, of course, Kurt Cobain came along and changed the landscape and Axl sacked the band and we’re still waiting for that ‘Chinese Democracy’ album he promised us 11 years ago.
Anyway, now we’ve got ‘Greatest Hits’ and, distanced by a decade from all the hoo-ha, it still sounds fucking great. You’ll know ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ with its serpentine Slash intro and glorious chorus. You should also get into ‘Paradise City’ and ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ if you wanna know where [a][/a] got the idea of screwing pop choruses into HM verses. And if lighters aloft rock is your bag, say hello to the mighty ‘November Rain’.
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This shit still sounds hot today. It’s packed with pomp, spunk and circumstance, makes blokes want to fight and girls want to dance. What the fuck else is there?
Get ‘Greatest Hits’ at the NME Shop